The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on November 9 that they would appoint a committee to provide recommendations for addressing any possible mental health challenges pilots faced.
Last month, reuters.com reported that an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot was charged with trying to switch off an aircraft’s engines during a flight. On his arrest, he told police he was suffering a nervous breakdown.
“Mental healthcare has made great strides in recent years, and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots,” said FAA Administrator, Mike Whitaker.
In July, an Inspector General Office report on pilot mental health criticised the FAA for creating a reluctance among pilots to disclose their mental health conditions and inhibiting their ability to mitigate safety risks.
National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said the board planned to hold its first forum on December 6 to review the FAA’s oversight of pilot mental health.
“The current system is broken and has been for a long time,” Homendy told reporters. She said pilots must report their mental health condition to aviation medical examiners, who then assessed their fitness to fly, but that many were fearful they could lose their jobs if they mentioned they were going to therapy.
“We don’t want to create an unsafe system, but mental health is dynamic,” said Homendy. She explained that there were ways of managing wellness with mental health challenges rather than leaving pilots wondering if they were going to be able to fly again.
Air Line Pilots Association President Jason Ambrosi, told reuters.com there was an urgent need to destigmatise mental health for pilots. “We need to make people understand it is okay for them to talk to someone.”